Stop me if this sounds familiar. Season opener, second year for an Eagles QB who was the second-overall draft pick, coming off a losing season behind an inarticulate first-time coach whom critics declare unqualified.
The Eagles open on the road against an NFC rival they never beat and . . . and they win by double digits.
Of course it’s familiar. What Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson and friends pulled off in Washington Sunday stirred echoes of 2000, when Donovan McNabb, Andy Reid and gallons of pickle juice shook the world with a 41-14 blowout opener at Dallas.
That was a franchise-changing afternoon (for both teams), and propelled the Eagles to an 11-5 record and five straight playoff appearances. Will this game do the same?
I’m half ready to believe so. My faith, of course, rests more in Wentz than Pederson.
Wentz was not infallible Sunday. His accuracy needs work and youthful overconfidence makes him hold the ball too long. But that’s overshadowed by his ability to escape pressure and create huge plays – just like young McNabb. With his line getting pushed toward him much of the day, Wentz completed 67 percent of his attempts for 307 yards.
The play we’ll remember is the 58-yard TD to Mr. Confidence, Nelson Agholor. Wentz eluded three potential sacks on the play, danced for eight seconds and, throwing off his back foot, side-armed a pillow into Agholor’s hands 40 yards downfield.
It evoked déjà vu of McNabb’s 2004 Monday Night scramble-and-heave to Freddie Mitchell. Or Randall Cunningham’s astounding 95-yarder to Fred Barnett against Bruce Smith and the Bills in 1990.
Pederson, meanwhile, evoked memories of Andy Reid, although not all positive ones. He abandoned the run early, letting newcomer LeGarrette Blount watch much of the game from the bench. The Eagles ran 33 plays in the second and third quarters – 27 of them passes — while watching their 13-0 lead disappear. The coach also dialed up some oddly risky plays throughout the game.
But in the end, what counts is that his team earned a 13-point victory — on the road, where they lost their final seven games last year; in the division, where they went 2-4. Ugly win or not, it was a terrific way to start the season.
Pederson’s players think he gets a bum rap from the likes of critic Mike Lombardi and whatever sources told the Inquirer last week that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is poised to take the head coach’s job. They like Pederson. They’re loyal. To that end, they punctuated the day by showering him in Gatorade, another gesture evoking older memories.
I’m sure the coach didn’t mind the lingering stickiness as he answered questions. It had to feel refreshing after the harsh scrutiny. And it’s easier to be embattled outside when you’re embraced inside the locker room.
That scrutiny won’t go away – Reid faced it through 13 seasons here. But if Pederson (and Wentz) can accomplish in their second season what Reid and McNabb did, well, maybe the critics will tone it down just a bit. And maybe there are many Gatorade showers to follow.